Denmark must be better at selling itself to foreign talents: CEO

The biggest challenge to Denmark’s economy is the labour shortage, and business and politicians must be better at working together to promote Denmark’s qualities, says the chairperson of a major corporate interest group.

Denmark must be better at selling itself to foreign talents: CEO
Lars-Peter Søbye speaking at the DI Business Summit. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Lars-Peter Søbye, chairman of the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI) and CEO at consultancy firm COWI, made the comments at last week’s DI Business Summit in Copenhagen, writes

“At a time when public sentiment and populism dominate the political agenda and people wage shouting matches on social media, it’s more important than ever that we keep a cool head and that we as business leaders keep the conversation alive,” Søbye said.

“We must both listen and offer considered opinions to ensure that we make sounder decisions that benefit both welfare and growth,” he added.

While expressing concern about the increasingly protectionist leanings of world leaders, the CEO also stressed that, from a Danish perspective, there is much to celebrate.

“We currently find ourselves in a situation where we have almost no unemployment in Denmark. We have more than 2.7 million employees at work in the Danish labour market – the highest rate yet,” Søbye said.

“The biggest threat to growth is not a lack of orders but a lack of hands and minds. This is an extremely strong starting point. But it is necessary that we take action now in order to ensure a strong future,” he added.

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“We need to be better at making the most of everyone. And here, all of us – businesses, politicians, public authorities and individuals – have a big responsibility,” Søbye said during a panel discussion later in the event.

He also noted that politicians and businesses should work together to attract and retain foreign talent.

“We need an explicit talent strategy that offers people attractive career opportunities. We know that there is too little knowledge of Denmark abroad, and it is therefore necessary that we become better at showing off Denmark’s strengths, both at home and abroad,” he said.

“We can pride ourselves on the proximity we have between leaders and employees, our work-life balance and the fact that Denmark is a safe, clean and attractive country with a good welfare system. We need to make this more widely known,” the CEO added.

In his speech at the conference, DI’s CEO Karsten Dybvad said that Denmark was in “intense competition” with other countries in attracting skilled foreign professionals.

“We will not solve Denmark’s integration problems by closing the doors to skilled foreign workers who come here to work and contribute from day one,” Dybvad said.

“Foreign professionals bring competencies that open possibilities for companies to secure new orders,” he continued.

“We are in intense competition with Germany, Sweden and many other countries to attract the best professionals to come here, from Europe and the rest of the world. We must do all we can,” he said.


Over 2,000 of Denmark’s doctors are foreign professionals

Almost one in five doctors in rural parts of Denmark was trained abroad. The Danish Medical Association has called for more stringent language requirements.

Over 2,000 of Denmark’s doctors are foreign professionals
File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Statistics Denmark (DST) figures show an increase in the number of doctors working in Denmark who qualified abroad, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported on Friday.

A total of 2,100 foreign-trained doctors working at Danish hospitals and general practices in 2017 represents an increase of 300, or 19 percent, since 2010.

The Danish Medical Association’s chairperson Andreas Rudkjøbing said the figures show the Danish health sector’s increasing need to recruit specialist medics.

“This reflects that it has not been possible to meet our needs with (Danish)-trained doctors, which has thereby made it necessary to fill vacancies with foreign-trained doctors. The Danish health system is completely dependent upon our foreign colleagues,” Rudkjøbing told Jyllands-Posten.

According to the DST analysis, 18 percent of hospital doctors and GPs in rural municipalities were foreign nationals who took their qualifications outside of Denmark. The national average was somewhat lower at 9 percent.

Rudkjøbing said the key consideration is quality of service, rather than the proportion of foreign doctors.

“The gauge is delivery of high quality treatment and high patient safety,” he said.

The most common nationality for the foreign-trained doctors is German (247 doctors) followed by Polish (219), then Iraqi (163), Lithuanian (156) and Russian (109).

The top 10 includes three non-European countries: Afghanistan and Iran in addition to Iraq. Hungary, Romania and Norway complete the top ten.

Current rules require doctors trained outside of Nordic countries and the EU to pass a series of courses in order to be granted authorization to practice medicine in Denmark. These include Danish language tests as well as tests relating to medical knowledge and Danish medical law.

Doctors who studied in the EU or the Nordic region are exempted from these courses and are able to gain authorization largely automatically under EU law, the Danish Patient Safety Authority states on its website.

That means individual employers – the health authorities known as Regions, in the case of public hospitals – are responsible for assessing the linguistic skills of medics before hiring them.

Rudkjøbing told Jyllands-Posten he is in favour of Danish language tests also applying to EU-trained doctors.

“You can end up in a situation in which a doctor is employed without having the necessary linguistic competencies to carry out the role. We have asked the minister for health, and parliament, to tighten the rules so we don’t end in such a situation,” he said.

The Social Democrats, Danish People’s Party and Red Green Alliance – who each represent different parts of the political spectrum – all said prior to June’s general election that they would support such a measure.

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